Saul Haymond Sr. of Pickens is a self-taught painter who has been documenting life in Holmes County’s African American community for more than forty years. Born in 1947 on a plantation near Ebenezer, Haymond was first exposed to painting and the art world through a mail-order book that featured the paintings of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Haymond began copying these artists’ works, tracing them on the ground in the dirt. Haymond subsequently drew on grocery sacks using charcoal from the fireplace. His stepfather felt that the drawings were a waste of paper and often used them as kindling in the family’s fireplace, so Haymond began drawing under the house. He eventually accumulated enough money to buy a watercolor set, beginning his experiments with color.
When he was seventeen, Haymond left home for a Job Corps position in Maryland. There he took some painting classes and had the first public exhibition of his work, at which several political figures from the Washington, D.C., area purchased his paintings. Haymond returned to Mississippi and went to work as a farm laborer while continuing to paint in the evenings, sometimes depicting African Americans in the cotton fields. Haymond’s friends initially objected that his paintings portrayed depressing local scenes, but he argued that his art depicted the history of African Americans in the Delta.
Much of Haymond’s work focuses on scenes from his life and those of his neighbors and friends. Some of his favorite topics include former homes, local stores, workers picking cotton, and landscapes of the places where he previously lived and worked. Because of his emphasis on local subjects, other Holmes County residents frequently commission pieces from Haymond. Using photographs and stories from his clients, he creates paintings that depict scenes from the community’s or local families’ history.
Haymond’s work began to garner greater recognition in the 1990s, when he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Mississippi Arts Commission. His work also began to be exhibited outside of the state, including an exhibition at the Atelier A/E Gallery in New York. He was also one of the artists featured in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s 1999 Mississippi Invitational show. He retired from work as a farm laborer in November 2004 and now devotes himself full time to his art.
- Saul Haymond, interview by Larry Morrisey, Mississippi Arts Commission Folklife Archive (6 August 2005)
- Mississippi Invitational 1999 Exhibit Catalog, Mississippi Museum of Art